When considering the move to the online world of cloud and mobile working, the banking industry holds up a fantastic example of how consumer attitudes have shifted in the context of interacting online.
The public took a huge leap of faith when they first made physical deposits in banks, placing their trust in them that they would keep their money safe. Step forward some years, high street banking is the norm and we have moved on from physical cash deposits and cheques to the world of online banking. It is now commonplace for us to manage our personal finances over the internet, increasingly through smartphones and tablets.
According to the British Bankers' Association, bank customers now make 5.7 million transactions a day through mobile apps. That is a huge volume of sensitive personal data, moving between the palms of our hands and the banks' central data centres. But we know it, and we've come to trust that it is secure.
It may have been hard to envisage making bank transactions through a mobile phone twenty years ago, yet today many of us don't think twice when banking via the internet. Today, we're nearing the tipping point where the same is becoming true for cloud computing. Millions of us use cloud for personal use – many without even knowing it through services like Amazon, eBay, Webmail or even Office 365. With the UK cloud industry expected to be worth £6.1 billion this year, this shift in consumer mind set is being mirrored in the corporate world.
Better under lock and key?
Data security is one of the biggest concerns for businesses when considering a move to cloud, but take a look at how we treat the banks.
Questions around security in the cloud should not simply revolve around data security, it's about physical security too. Just as you wouldn't leave your bank details on your desk, you wouldn't leave a device with sensitive data on the train. Security in the cloud context should not be thought of in terms of data alone - businesses must also set firm parameters when it comes to devices. Cloud is secured – and its job of providers to make that so.
Not if but when
The pendulum has swung and the considerations for businesses have evolved from whether cloud is a viable option to the practicalities of how to leverage it. There's a recognition that the worlds of business and technology have changed – the cloud has opened up new ways of doing business, of communicating, collaborating, and managing data.
Businesses should treat the cloud as a way of solving a business issue, rather than the latest trend that they need to be on top of. Start by considering the pain points in your organisation and work backwards from there by finding a partner who can provide the right solution to solve those issues. The cloud can be for everyone, but there's never a one-size-fits-all answer, just like there's no one single way for consumers to manage their finances online.
The good news is it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing decision. Once you understand what you're trying to solve you can have the discussion around which sort of solution is best suited for you - on premise, hybrid or cloud.
As with banking 200 years ago, there are risks and security considerations to take into account in moving to the cloud but look at how far we have come. We have all taken a leap of faith when it comes to entrusting banks with our personal finance data, and then accessing it through the internet. You should always consider the risks, but don't allow your fears to stop you from making the right decision for your business.
- Rob Davis is Head of Technology and Development at Sage UK and Ireland's Small and Medium Business Division